Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Drobo Benchmark: How Fast is the Drobo?

Posted in Computers & Technology, Hardware, NAS by Elliott Back on August 24th, 2008.

If you do much with computers, you might have heard of the home backup solution Drobo, which offers a redundant storage solution with striping and mirroring without any of the pain of a RAID array. Their cute devices take in four drives, use the space of one for redundancy, and give you protection against a single drive failure.


I wondered how fast it actually is, so I ran HD Tune, which measures the read speed of the drive:


On average, you’ll get 16MB/s out of the drobo, which is equivalent to probably half the speed of any of the drives you put into your Drobo. Maximum PC has a review in which the tried a Drobo with 1-4 drives, and they got an even 15.5MB/s in each configuration.

Buy @ Amazon!

Update: I have several seagate drives in my Drobo, which come by default with a jumper limiting them to SATA I (150 mbs). After I removed the jumper so they could use the faster SATA II, benchmarks gave me an average read speed of 16.3 MB/s. Reports indicate that the write speed may be faster, but I haven’t confirmed this.

Update: On Windows 7, and using the latest in firmware, I get 19.3MB/s average rate, 24ms average access time. On my other Drobo, I get 20.1 MB/s and 28ms access time. I can’t say whether it’s windows or the latest firmware, but it’s nice things are getting faster!

Cuil Sucks At Search (Go Google!)

Posted in Google, Search by Elliott Back on July 29th, 2008.

I love the idea behind Cuil, the latest search engine in a long list of failures (Mahalo, Ask, Powerset) to challenge Google. As Mashable explains, they are pulling out all the stops to hit Google from multiple directions across their core search competency:

Enter Cuil, a very serious competitor, packed with ex-Googlers (Tom Costello and Anna Patterson are the backbone of Cuil, and they’ve both worked at Google), and claiming to have the largest index of websites – 120 billion – in the world.

It doesn’t end there: Cuil pulls pretty much every trick in the book. Big claims about the biggest index, privacy concerns (IP addresses of users aren’t saved, making it impossible for a third party to request it from them), semi-semantic approach (Cuil’s engine recognizes the relations between certain words on a web site, which helps it rank pages better). Hell, they even pulled the energy-saving trick: the front page of Cuil is completely black, in contrast to Google’s eye-poking whiteness.

Check out the Slashdottie thread for more discussion. I’m not interested in going there; rather I’m more concerned with how relevant the results from Cuil are, compared to Google, in a stricter context of information retrieval. After all, a search engine is about finding information.

Let’s start with a query “how to rip a dvd” in Cuil and Google:

Cuil on “How To Rip a DVD”


4 of the 9 total results are spam from Ebooksbay. An additional 4 are for converting MP3s. The final result (which is quite spammy) is for ripping DVDs to a variety of formats. Score: 11%.

Google on “How To Rip a DVD”


Google gives you 7 DVD ripping guides, and three spams site of ripping software. Essentially, you have to give it a Score: 100%, since it’s pretty much the baseline in our test. Just based on what I’ve seen so far, this will be a comparison not of relative merits, but of how much less relevant the results from Cuil are compared to Google.

Cuil on “ConcurrentHashMap”


Wait, what is that in the rightmost result!!!? Yes, that winsome young woman is carefully inspecting a ConcurrentHashMap! Ahm, bad image / search results correlations aside, the search listings fail to list the authority Java documentation source (Sun’s website) and instead list 2 mirrors (java 5 and 6), 4 bug reports, 3 mailing list discussions, and 2 random libraries with a similarly named class. Score: 50%.

Google on “ConcurrentHashMap”


Google nicely gives us the Sun Java page as the first result, 2 snippets of code using this class, 6 guides to using concurrent hash maps, a benchmark, one of the same random libraries as Cuil (Oswego), and a different random library (backport-util). I’d give them Score: 80% at this task.

Anyway, I’m getting tired of writing this. Cuil just doesn’t deliver fast, consistent, high-quality search results. The relevance is quite low, in spite of the interface improvements and searching / clustering / recommendation features.

Upgrade 1.1.4 iPhone to 1.2.0 with WinPWN on Windows XP

Posted in Apple, Cracking, Hacking, Hardware, iPhone by Elliott Back on July 20th, 2008.

The process of updating your 1.1.4 first-gen iPhone to 1.2.0 is simple. Even though the official winpwn release for Windows and the iPhone 3G isn’t out yet, here’s what you need to do to unlock, jailbreak, and upgrade your 1.4 iPhone to the 2.0 3G firmware!

[STEP 1] Download Winpwn RC1 from the official source, or my local mirror. The filename is winpwn_1.0.0.3_RC1_Setup.zip; after you download it, download Apple’s 1.1.4 firmware, choose that ipsw from the “browse .ipsw” button, and click “iPwner” to WinPwn it. You’ll see something like this:

7/20/2008 4:10:49 PM – This is winpwn ver.: RC1
7/20/2008 4:10:50 PM – Apple Mobile Device Support Version installed.
7/20/2008 4:11:01 PM – Debug level:1
7/20/2008 4:11:02 PM – Debug level:0
7/20/2008 4:11:02 PM – Debug level:1
7/20/2008 4:11:10 PM – File from: iPhone1,1_1.1.4_4A102_Restore.ipsw
7/20/2008 4:11:10 PM – Recognized as:iPhone1,1_1.1.4_4A102_Restore.ipsw Type: IPSW_iPhone
7/20/2008 4:11:10 PM – Be sure to connect an iPhone!
7/20/2008 4:11:13 PM – Failed to load image catalog
7/20/2008 4:11:34 PM – Failed to load payload catalog
7/20/2008 4:13:09 PM – Setting up iPhone device object
7/20/2008 4:13:09 PM – Registering callbacks
7/20/2008 4:13:10 PM – Unzipping .ipsw file to Application Data\cmw\winpwn\\ipsw
7/20/2008 4:13:10 PM – Found device product id:4752
7/20/2008 4:13:10 PM – iPhone connected
7/20/2008 4:13:15 PM – OK
7/20/2008 4:13:15 PM – Creating ramdisk
7/20/2008 4:13:16 PM – Padding ramdisk
7/20/2008 4:13:16 PM – Ramdisk successfully created
7/20/2008 4:13:17 PM – Putting iPhone into recovery mode.
7/20/2008 4:13:17 PM – AMDeviceEnterRecovery res:0
7/20/2008 4:13:21 PM – iPhone disconnected
7/20/2008 4:13:29 PM – iPhone entered recovery mode
7/20/2008 4:13:30 PM – Sending ramdisk to iPhone.
7/20/2008 4:13:31 PM – Transfer took 1734.375ms
7/20/2008 4:13:31 PM – Modifying environment…
7/20/2008 4:13:31 PM – Starting pwnage
7/20/2008 4:13:41 PM – iPhone left recovery mode
7/20/2008 4:14:44 PM – Found device product id:4752
7/20/2008 4:14:44 PM – iPhone connected
7/20/2008 4:14:44 PM – Your iPhone has been pwned

[STEP 2]: Now you need to BootNeuter your phone. Using the Installer.App download an install it. Instruction on how to neuter the bootrom can be found on the dev team’s site. It’s quite easy, just run the app, select Neuter, and hit the “Flash” button.


[STEP 3]: Update iTunes to 7.7, if you haven’t already. Get a hold of a 2.0 firmware made with iPWNAGE 2.0 for the Mac. Firmwares, for example, are available on torrent file sharing sites.

[STEP 4]: Shift-click the “restore” button in iTunes and select the custom firmware you obtained above. Thanks to PWNAGE 2.0, you now have a first-gen iPhone running the 2.0 firmware, with full ability to run games and apps from the iTunes Application store! Enjoy Super Monkey Ball!

I am running through these steps right now on my first-gen iPhone, and so far everything works as advertised. Of course, I’m not responsible if something does go wrong and bricks your iPhone…

Update: If you have trouble getting your wallpaper to show up, or just see a black background, connect to the iPhone via SSH or from a terminal on the phone itself, delete private/var/mobile/Library/LockBackground.jpg, and restart. You’ll be able to set your own wallpaper.

Update 2: It’s official, WinPwn for Windows XP has been released, so just go use that!

Also, you should check out How to Unlock the iPhone 3G on Google Knol.

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